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Friday, March 4, 2011

Reading Series: Growing a Farmer, a Reality Check for Farm Dreams

Posted By on Fri, Mar 4, 2011 at 7:55 AM

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In 1990, when he was in his late 20s, a cafe owner named Kurt Timmermeister decided to buy a plot of land on rural Vashon Island ― a short ferry ride from his business in Seattle, but still an island covered in working farms. The just-released Growing a Farmer, which is bringing Timmermeister to Omnivore Books and Book Passage next week, is the story of how he emerged as one of Seattle's best artisan cheese makers and a thrower of legendary underground dinners where almost everything on the table came from his 12-acre plot.

The longer Timmermeister has worked on his land, the longer he has realized it would take to transform it into a working farm. Every project has meant a thousand false starts, followed by tentative successes. Growing a Farmer is being billed as a memoir, but it's really part history of how Kurtwood Farms came to be and part instruction manual for clueless urbanites ― how to buy a tractor, how to operate a raw-milk dairy, and in the most visceral chapter, how to slaughter and butcher a pig.

Shot through with humor, the book is a reality check for all those urban fantasies about moving to the country and living off the land. Timmermeister simultaneously embodies the locavore ethic and shies away from its sometimes-prissy idealism. If you've ever had the pleasure of dining at his cookhouse or eating his cheese ― as I have ― you'll know: The man knows, and makes, great food.

If you've already flipped through the book, the thing that you may not pick up from the pages is Timmermeister's charisma. He is a marvelous raconteur, and I've watched him charm and inspire an entire room in mere minutes. You may head home from the reading to check out property listings in West Marin, or finally kill off those romantic feelings you've been harboring toward goats.

Reading schedule (both events are free):

Mon., Mar. 7, 6 p.m.

Omnivore Books, 3885a Cesar Chavez (at Church), 282-4712.

Tue., Mar. 8, 6 p.m.

Book Passage, 1 Ferry Building (at Embarcadero)), 835-1020.

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Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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Jonathan Kauffman

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